I recently read a meditation adapted from Richard Rohr’s Radical Grace: Daily Meditations reminding us of the meaning of Jesus’ command that we tend to the needs of “the least of the brothers and sisters.” What Jesus taught, what he demands of us is a radical includion of those who seem to us the most difficult for us to include.
When any church defines itself by exclusion of anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God.
Only as the People of God receive the stranger, the sinner, and the immigrant, those who don’t play our game our way, do we discover not only the hidden, feared, and hated parts of our own souls, but the fullness of Jesus himself. We need them for our own conversion.
The Church is always converted when the outcasts are re-invited back into the temple. You see this in Jesus’ commonly sending marginalized people that he has healed back into the village, back to their family, or back to the temple to “show themselves to the priests.” It is not just for their re-inclusion and acceptance, but actually for the group itself to be renewed.
The outcasts may be different for each of us. Even with the same church, we don’t all have the same view of who is the stranger.
But the message is the same for each of us: a message of radical inclusion, a place at the table for all. All are invited. And each of us has to be part of extending that invitation.